During a week that included the release of a startling Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report saying that the world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, University of Maryland School of Public Health professor Dr. Amy Sapkota and colleagues convened two bi-national meetings that brought together world leaders who are developing innovative solutions to facilitate sustainable water reuse for food production in the face of climate change, population growth and dwindling freshwater supplies.
Global Water Reuse, Food and Health Workshop
The “Global Water Reuse, Food and Health Workshop,” funded by a grant from the US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD), was focused on building an interdisciplinary scientific network to tackle the globally urgent need to enable safe water reuse for food crop irrigation.
The U.S. and Israeli organizers of this workshop, Dr. Amy R. Sapkota (University of Maryland; CONSERVE Center of Excellence; UMD Global STEWARDS), Dr. Yael Mishael (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Dr. Erick Bandala (Desert Research Institute, Nevada), and Dr. Clive Lipchin (Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Israel), have recently initiated collaborations in agricultural water reuse, and sought to bring U.S. and Israeli colleagues together to define directions and opportunities for actionable water reuse research that can advance agriculture and protect public health.
More than 60 people came to College Park, Maryland for the two-day workshop that included sessions exploring what is known and being investigated about the impacts of recycled irrigation water on public health; food safety and quality; soil health, plant health and crop yields. There were also sessions about farmers’ and consumers’ perspectives on the use of recycled irrigation water on food crops, as well as regulatory approaches that would be necessary to support successful agricultural water reuse.
Notably, Dr. Mulunesh Abebe Alebachew, vice president for research and community service of Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia, addressed the attendees on the need for water reuse solutions for agriculture in Ethiopia, reinforcing the need for systems-based approaches that can ultimately support local-to-global solutions to address both water and food insecurity in multiple regions of the world.
Reflecting the broad and interdisciplinary nature of this work, the workshop was kicked off with welcomes from leaders including Dr. Boris Lushniak (dean, UMD School of Public Health), Dr. Laurie Locascio (vice president of Research, UMD), Dr. Craig Beyrouty (dean, UMD College of Agriculture & Natural Resources) and Dr. Benny Chefetz, (dean, Hebrew University, Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Environment).
Trainees from all participating institutions presented research talks and posters on topics such as DNA-based techniques to characterize total bacterial communities in recycled irrigation water and strategies to remove contaminants such as pharmaceuticals from these alternative irrigation water sources.
Maryland-Israel Water Conference: Water Reuse and Security
The “MD-Israel Water Conference: Water Reuse and Security” followed the two-day BARD workshop. The conference was co-hosted by the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Maryland-Israel Sister State Committee and the University of Maryland-based CONSERVE Center of Excellence. The idea for this conference was spearheaded by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s office and the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office after a Maryland-Israel Sister State agreement (MOU) between Maryland and the Negev region of Israel was signed in 2016 by Hogan and Israel’s Deputy Minister Meshulam Nahari.
The goal of the Conference was to plant seeds for Maryland-Israel partnerships that could help ensure Maryland’s water sustainability and security into the future. Looking to expand Maryland’s leadership in technology innovation for water reuse, government and industry representatives, including Mr. Ben Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Environment and Mr. Roy McGrath from the Maryland Environmental Service, spoke about efforts to identify and implement innovative solutions for the water management needs of the state of Maryland.
Israeli leaders, including Ms. Yifat Alon Perel, Minister of Economic and Trade Affairs, and executives from Israel-based water treatment and technology companies including the Fluence Corporation, Kando and AMIAD shared how they have developed sustainable water treatment and reuse systems in the context of the world’s toughest climates and water conditions in the Middle East.